As many of you know from my recent posts on facebook, I attended the National Women Inspiring Women Awards in Birmingham on Saturday, at which I was nominated for the Woman to Watch/Rising Star Award. I’d like to take a minute to tell you why I’m a winner despite not walking away with the award…

So it was a weird experience for me, the whole thing. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole concept of the awards – I’m all for celebrating people and their uniqueness and successes, but having a winner seems to imply that someone is better than others in some way. Or is it just the part of me that is uncomfortable with ‘shining’ that feels that way? I don’t know. Of course I was excited and hugely honored to have been nominated – to have been considered a ‘rising star’ and when I was shortlisted I was absolutely thrilled – well, a part of me was, another part of me  was terrified, but I will get to that.

The final decision, the WINNER, was decided by votes, meaning that all of us shortlistees were supposed to put ourselves out there and ask people to vote for us to win the award. I asked my family and friends to vote for me of course, and I posted it on facebook a few times, but the whole time I was cringing. I mean, it felt really icky, asking for people to vote for me to win an award, to say I was better than the other people in my category. I’m still confused about that – is that just this part of me that doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd? I don’t think so – I really am good with standing out from the crowd now – mostly – in fact I’m starting to like being seen as ‘weird’ because I know it means I am being real, I am being me and not attached to being accepted or normal. What I am not comfortable with is standing out in terms of being ‘better’, because I don’t believe in better or worse – I believe we are all rising stars. So anyway, I knew that my pathetic requests for votes wouldn’t stand up against the massive campaigns I had seen by other nominees, and I was really ok with that – I was far more comfortable with the idea of not winning, and not just because of my conflict over the whole thing. I will tell you why soon.

I felt great on the night, really glammed up – my lovely hubby Mike escorted me to the event, I met some truly fab people, many of whom I’ve been ‘online’ friends with for a while and it was great to meet them in person. At the ceremony I was seated on a table right by the stage. There was another lady at my table who was also up for an award, a different award to me. After the rather scrummy dinner, the compere took to the stage and announced it was time for the awards. My heart started racing, I felt my whole body stiffen, and I immediately scanned the room for the nearest exit – just in case. It’s an old habit – the need for an escape route. So this lady leaned over and whispered to me “are you nervous?” I felt relief flood over me – I wasn’t the only one! My massive fear, that so often felt shameful, was shared by others too! “Yes!!!” I almost whisper-screamed in relief “I’m soooo scared, I don’t want to win, I don’t want to have to get up on stage, I hate being the centre of attention!” She just looked at me slightly perplexed. “Really?” she asked, “I am just scared of not winning!”

In that moment I wanted the ground to swallow me up – I had revealed my massive fear only to be given a very strange look. The moment I had heard I was nominated for the award and little ‘scared’ Lynda had piped up :’Oh My God! You CAN NOT win that award!’ Because she knew that winning the award would mean having to stand up on stage and accept the award, and make a speech, in front of a room full of people. And that is the biggy for me. The big fear – the biggest fear. It always has been. SO this scared part of me showed up in a  huge way, despite all the internal ‘work’ I have been doing over the last couple of years. This part of me has been showing up for a long time and still has the ability to really pull me in. I still remember when I first really noticed her – back in my uni days.

We’d all had to do a module called ‘reporting and presentation’ during which we had to plan and give a 10 minute presentation to the rest of the class. I had literally been crippled with fear from the moment I knew I had to do it – I’d spent the entire term having sleepless nights, I hadn’t even practiced my presentation because It would have meant thinking about what I was going to have to do – stand in front of the whole room of people and talk. Seriously, i’d considered leaving uni altogether. I was so scared of this fear I was feeling. And when the day had arrived, I’d dragged myself into the classroom as if dragging myself to a torture chamber. When my turn had arrived I’d stood and walked to the front of the class and my whole body had started to shake so badly i thought I was going to faint – my face was burning, I wanted to throw up. I’d opened my mouth to speak and no words had come out. I couldn’t speak. I was my fear – it was all that existed. I was so ashamed and embarrassed I ran from the room and went home. I failed the module and spent years telling the story that ‘I am Lynda and I suffer from anxiety’, holding myself back from anything that may involve a situation in which I had to feel that kind of fear again. And as you can imagine, that’s quite a limiting life I was leading.

But now things are different, and I will tell you why. Back to Saturday night. In the moment, after I had revealed my fear, everything suddenly became clear and I mentally said ‘ohhhhhhhh’, and felt a massive weight just melt away from me. Because I now have the ability to view everything that appears in the mirror of my life from the point of view of the ‘observer’, to watch what is going on for me. It doesn’t always happen immediately – some parts of me get so loud and I tune into them for a while before my consciousness switches back out to the level of observer. But in that moment that’s exactly what happened. I saw myself reacting from this tiny scared part of me that was reading out an old script, and I chose to tune out of that part of me. She was there, yes, I wasn’t going to deny that. but I wasn’t going to believe her – I wasn’t going to embody her – I wasn’t going to hold myself back because of her.

The biggest lesson I have learned on this journey of awakening – I believe one of the biggest personal lessons of my entire life – is that fear is my friend. And in that moment, I realised that this was another opportunity to declare fear as my friend instead of my enemy, another opportunity to choose. I used to want my fear to go away – I used to believe that I would only be okay, only be successful, when I didn’t feel fear anymore. but that’s bullshit. I know now I am okay when I accept that my fear is a part of me, it is a valuable part of me because it leads me towards the experiences that will be valuable and expansive for me.  And that’s exactly what it did on Saturday night – my fear gave me another opportunity to show up. That’s it – just to show up as all of me, fear and all, with no shame, and to declare ‘this is me’!

So I watched other women walk up on stage and suddenly had an urge to jump up there – and I knew I could, I suddenly had words flooding into me, words I wanted to say, things I wanted to share with the room! My fear didn’t go away, when they started calling out the nominations for my award my heart was still pounding – but my fear had completely transformed into a propelling energy, and energy of expansion instead of a paralysing energy of contraction. Nothing on the outside had changed – just my perception of my fear, my acceptance of that part of me. And this isn’t the first time I have had this opportunity to choose to befriend my fear – it comes up over and over again – and my fear gets a little less overpowering each time, and my observer kicks in a little quicker each time. And every time I have embraced my fears in this way it has led directly to absolutely amazing internal growth and external success and opportunities, I now completely embrace and welcome these opportunities because I understand that in moving through these situations with my fear on board, I am expanding my comfort zone and in doing so I am expanding the boundaries of what is possible for me in my life.

As they called out the name of the winner, I was smiling big, because even though it wasn’t me and I didn’t get the opportunity to jump up on stage and reveal myself (no – not like that!) to the room full of people, I knew I could have, and would have. I wouldn’t have run for the exit this time. And that makes me a winner!